News / Middle East

Libya's Transitional Government Faces Human Rights Challenges

Gaddafi loyalists, taken prisoner by anti-Gaddafi fighters, are led out after they were found hiding in a hospital in the center of Sirte, October 9, 2011.
Gaddafi loyalists, taken prisoner by anti-Gaddafi fighters, are led out after they were found hiding in a hospital in the center of Sirte, October 9, 2011.

Libya's new leaders are forming a transitional government as they consolidate control and battle the remaining forces loyal to deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi. They face numerous challenges - perhaps one of the greatest being in the area of human rights.

Libyans are still savoring freedom and today a popular outing is to visit the sprawling palace grounds of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Children pose for pictures among the ruins of the deposed colonel's palace and former rebels fire their guns in celebration.

Bones pictured at the scene of a mass grave in Tripoli, September 25, 2011.
Bones pictured at the scene of a mass grave in Tripoli, September 25, 2011.

Libyans are also uncovering the excesses of Mr. Gadhafi's 42-year rule. Human rights activists say the society has yet to address severe human rights abuses during the Gadhafi era as well as during the struggle to remove him.

Abu Salim Prison is a vast walled complex where thousands of political prisoners were held over the years and where many of them died or disappeared.  When rebels took over the prison in late August, they found extensive files about political prisoners, dissidents and many ordinary citizens.

Mohamed Salem Drah is one of several human rights lawyers documenting detentions, disappearances and other violations by the Gadhafi regime.

"It is very important for history.  It is very important for those who were injured.  It is very important for justice itself," said Drah.

Doctors and nurses in his group are also documenting cases of abuse of prisoners and civilians during the months of fighting.  They say both sides committed abuses, although they say, Gadhafi loyalists were responsible for most of them.

The head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, is urging Libyans to refrain from acts of revenge and is calling on Libyans to build a state that respects the rule of law.

Jalil says the nation must work to abolish hatred and jealousy, and he urges Libyans to avoid revenge and oppression. He says reports of abuses will be investigated.

Human rights organizations are especially concerned about the plight of Libya's sub-Saharan Africans who numbered more than one million and made up one-sixth of the country's population.  Some of them reportedly fought with forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

Rights workers say more than one-third of all prisoners are black Africans.  Some of them have told reporters that they were offered money or citizenship to fight for Mr. Gadhafi.

But most were migrant workers.  Many fled Libya when the fighting began.  But more than 100,000 remained and gathered in makeshift camps for protection.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch says many were suspected of being pro-Gadhafi fighters and often were detained without reason or charge.

"The problem is that once they get detained by these overzealous young armed men on the streets, they get taken to a detention facility and there is really no process in place to get them released.  There is no investigative authority, no judicial authority in place right now," Bouckaert said.

Bouckaert says it will be difficult to transform the police state built by Moammar Gadhafi into a modern democratic society.  But, he says, this is what most Libyans want.

“We know there will be vast challenges to rebuild structures of a state, but there really is a genuine commitment there - not just on the part of the new leadership, but also on the part of the population.  It lived under brutality for so long that they know it is not what want,” said Bouckaert.

He says it is important that supporters of Mr. Gadhafi who did not engage in human rights violations be included in the healing and rebuilding process.  Because, he says, if they join, the transition can be achieved relatively smoothly and without retribution.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs